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49ers OLB Manny Lawson: Where Does He Really Stand

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When we look through the 49ers roster over the last few years, Alex Smith receives more grief than anybody else. It's not even remotely close. However, the number two guy on the roster when it comes to fan grief is probably Manny Lawson. Feel free to disagree with that statement, but I'm pretty sure that Manny Lawson gets dumped on as much as any member of the 49ers outside of Alex Smith.

I bring this up now because Mike Sando put together a post talking about how he might very well be underrated (tip of the cap to EcERyda69). In his post, Sando discusses comments by Scouts Inc's matt Williamson who pointed to Pro Football Focus metrics:

"I would pay some attention to Pro Football Focus and those sites. He is interesting on that site. In their metrics, he ranks among the best pass-rushers in the league, but he does not get to the quarterback. He is a consistent pressure player. He just has low sack numbers. 

"Every time I bring his name up, San Francisco fans are like, 'He is a bust, he is not good.' But the rest of the league wants him. The best might be ahead of him. He is long, fluid. If he went to New England, he might all of a sudden be going to Pro Bowl after Pro Bowl. Not that the San Francisco defense is bad, but you might be careful what you wish for with him leaving town. I don't think he has been a bust."

PFF ranks Manny Lawson as the number eight 3-4 outside linebacker. The problem, as Mike Sando acknowledges, is that he does not get nearly as many snaps as a lot of the players in these rankings. He has been utilized in early down situations and the team really does not fully utilize him in the pass rush. He can be excellent in coverage (see his performance against Raiders TE Zach Miller).

However, people are quick to toss him in the scrap heap, particularly when looking specifically at the stats he has put up over the last few years. Is it possible under a slightly more legitimate defensive coordinator with a better scheme, we might see better numbers out of Manny Lawson?

Or will it really matter with impending free agency? The league is trying to determine potential free agency rules for the coming season depending on how the court case works itself out. They may not replicate 2010 rules, which could have a significant impact on who becomes an unrestricted free agent and who remains a restricted free agent.